Photos By Melissa Groth, Clarissa Villondo, Words By Kalee Rinehart
It’s fair to say that preservation is not punk. In fact, it may even be the antithesis of an anti-establishment, aggressive, and rebellious style of music. But in a genre with a LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG philosophy, it’s probably good that a lot of the influential people did not, in fact, die young, and are excited and able to contribute to the preservation of an important scene in D.C. (and music) history.
The Punk Rock Swap Meet, hosted by Derek Brown at the Warehouse Theater behind The Passenger, served to benefit the DC Public Library’s Punk Archives. Attendees were asked to either pay a $5 entrance fee, or provide at least one archival item, like fliers, records, or zines, from the local scene. All door proceeds and a portion of drink sales went to the archives.
The event was essentially the punkest a fundraiser gala could possibly be, aging former punks (like Ian MacKaye!) mingling with youngish people with enough expendable income to pay a cover and buy $9 cocktails.
Three dudes from D.C. bands (Brian Baker of Bad Religion, Dag Nasty, and Minor Threat; Brendan Canty of Deathfix, Fugazi, and Rites of Spring; and John Davis of Title Track and Q and Not U) DJed; playing some punk classics and stuff from other relatively related genres. (Pretty sure I heard local lady Mary Timony on one of John Davis’ picks.)
A screen opposite the DJ stand displayed footage from the forthcoming documentary Punk the Capital (focusing on DC punk in the late 70s to early 80s), mostly scenes from live shows, which was kind of a hilarious juxtaposition to a room full of seemingly square people sipping swanky cocktails from plastic cups.
There were two cocktail choices, both with artisanal whiskeys and other fancy ingredients, which was not surprising considering the venue and the host. Schlitz was also available (with a Fuck Punk Cocktails option of a beer and a shot of rye). There was even iced coffee for purchase, as a straight edge beverage option.
The archives walked away with some pretty cool items; rare LPs and 7-inches, VHS and cassette tapes, tee-shirts, and even a ticket stub signed by Ian McKaye that he verified then and there to be authentic. Library staff will be able to use the cash raised to fill in gaps in the archives, which includes the pretty sweet task of going to record stores in search of any important pieces for the collection.
But what would these former punks’ young selves think of this, an event with pumpkin and spice flavored whiskey to benefit the efforts of the government-funded library? I imagine they probably would have thought it was lame, but that’s probably why there didn’t seem to be any stereotypical punks or anyone under the age of 21 at the event, except for one infant hanging out in a little baby carrier for half of the night. It was just a bunch of people celebrating the efforts of filmmakers, musicians, and librarians to preserve a historically significant music scene and a good reminder that D.C. has the capacity to foster rad movements and communities.